In The Outer Space at the Public Theater – the best musical of last season – the inimitable Ethan Lipton utilized the ludicrously wide range of his musical voice to leave Earth far behind, both literally and figuratively, to obtain new, creatively absurd and absurdly creative, allegorically-resonant perspectives on the existentialism of Earth-bound existence.
His schlubby physical appearance containing a surprisingly-wicked intellect underneath mirrors the show’s comically-silly facade masking deep reservoirs of insightful, empathetic understanding below.
Conventional musicals capture the overflowing sentiments of life through soaring songs, literally elevating the nature of humanity’s corporeality to parallel our inner emotional heights; characters break into song (forsaking reality) to voice feelings that can only be accurately expressed through such heightened forms of communication. This proves a perfect launching off point for Lipton’s own surreality; as is the case for the main character, a change in reality – be it of the musical or spacial variety – can facilitate a beneficial change in perspective on our own realit…ies (his singular mind knows that reality is not a singular construct).
Despite an inconsistent season that could’ve been confused as lackluster, the Public Theater ended up with the best new play (Richard Nelson’s THE GABRIELS’ triology) AND musical (this) of 2016-2017. I’m also loving the Public’s recent trend of what I call cabaret musicals (much less common than musical cabarets), recent examples of which include this, Bridget Everett’s Rock Bottom, and Stew’s Notes of a Native Song, all performed at Joe’s Pub, with its pitch-perfect acoustics (a boon for this rich score) AND limitless set/lighting possibilities (of which Leigh Silverman – one of the most versatile and absolute best theatre directors working today – takes brilliant advantage in her design for The Outer Space).
I would go to the moon to get my hands on a cast recording, which would make me, yes, over the moon…